STATION 1: JULIE DOWLING
Exhibition: 'Stations of the Cross', Westley Church, Perth, March 2015
Murlabaya – Becoming Dead (Is Condemned to Die)*
131 x 75.5cm
Acrylic, red ochre, mica gold and plastic on canvas
by Julie Dowling, Badimaya Nation
"I wanted to paint an image related directly to the viewer about those who are wholly innocent and fall in-between the cracks of the justice system in WA. I also reflect on deaths in custody for First Nation people in this country.
I believe there are alternatives to the incarceration system as it is today. I think prisons are instruments of torture and punish those living in poverty.
Most first nation inmates have criminal records because they cannot get jobs and pay fines. . Many inmates are mentally ill from being systematically abused. Many have suffered inter-generational trauma believing that the only stability they have in life is found within prison walls. It is tragedy that social pressures to conform to the dominant culture in Australia cause my people to be targeted by systemic discrimination and racism. This relationship between the first nations people and the arms of the state have a long history going back to colonial invasion.
It is ignored that many of my people do not even the English language and it is not their first language. Many First Nation Peoples in this country who are convicted because they say “yes” to accusations when asked about a crime without fully knowing what is happening to them. The criminal injustice system continues without showing any duty of care or fairness.
Many of my people have daily fears of bashed by police or when they are incarcerated by the guards who are paid to look after them. Many of my people have been in and out of ‘the system’ since they were young children. A large number started out as foster children with little or no connection to their cultural identity believing that they might find their kin ‘inside’.
My community is fully aware of disturbing realities where children as young as nine or ten years old are being housed in juvenile detention or moved without consent to adult prisons in Western Australia without the consultation of their parents, families or communities. It is little wonder that this cycle of despair leaves far too many first nations peoples in this country to take their own lives. Depression or other mental illness receives little or no adequate treatment in correctional facilities.
In this country, first nation peoples make up thirty percent of the prison population and yet we are but three percent of the generation population. Between the years 2000 and 2010, the rate of first nation women has increased by sixty percent making up 58.6 percent of all women in prison. Our children currently make up 48 percent of all juveniles in custody beginning their lives behind bars rather than learning and growing within the arms of families.
The Barnett Government now threatens to close nearly 150 remote Aboriginal communities in this state. Ironically there are plans to build more prisons.
In this painting I have shown there to be figures around the Wiru(spirit circle). Around the figure’s head, are the belly marks of goanna as well as multiple sets of hands symbolising his spirit reaching out for help. The figure’s fingers do not touch each other so help is beyond the subjects grasp.
There are symbols of bush fires, camp sites, jardi (goanna’s), emu’s. All are symbols of fast motion. The symbol of everlasting flowers is the only symbol for stillness.
At the base of the painting is representing the garden of Gethsemane as well as the spirit trees found in the south west of WA known as Nyining (in Noongar language). A Nyining becomes spiritual significant as it grows and more so if it’s lived longer than a human life."
Julie Dowling 2015
Represented by: Harvison Gallery
Image Credit: Don Dowling (no direct relation)
* Ref. Badimaya Dictionary: An Aboriginal Language of Western Australia, Bundiyana – Irra Wangga Language Centre, Geraldton 2014
* Incarceration Statistics found at http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates